Labour is such a mystery isn’t it? And for those of us who have already had a baby, we think we have a pretty good understanding of the process, only to find subsequent births are completely different from what we thought we knew.
Like most first-time parents, you have all the books (if you have a good care provider, they will advise against books like “What to expect…”) and you’ve maybe taken a birth education class.
The biggest question, or concern, I hear from my clients is: “When will I know I’m really in labour?” and “when do I call my midwife/go to the hospital.”
Yes. These are both important questions. And the answer is not always one that makes you feel confident because the real truth is that nothing you hear will allow you to feel confident in this knowledge. You will always wonder if this is really it, and how far you are from having your baby.
Here is what I can tell you from my experience in this unique and mysterious world of birth. Timing contractions is confusing, unless your labour happens to start with a nice, rhythmic pattern that is consistent. This rarely happens.
So, in an excited state, you start timing those contractions, and they are 8 minutes apart! No wait, no they are 5. Ohhh, what? That was about 10 mins apart. What is going on?
This is all normal. It is normal and nothing to be concerned about. In fact, these contractions, which have yet to establish a particular pattern, are often an indicator that you should have a nice meal, drink lots of water and rest. Rest, rest, rest.
Resting during early contractions can feel pretty much impossible. There is so much going on in your mind. Things like have you packed everything, are all those phone calls made, should you call your friends, when should you go to the hospital…and so on….our minds work hard and excitedly when those first contractions start. The point is, no matter how exciting those contractions are, you must rest. You and your partner need to eat, drink and sleep.
Take a nice bath, put some lemon in your water and rest. Get into a comfy position and rest. You are about to run a marathon – do your body and your baby a favour and get the rest while you still can. If it is the middle of the night, go back to bed. Definitely try to sleep. You will be so grateful for that rest as time passes.
I promise you that you will not miss the time when you know, “this is really it!”
When those contractions start to be your entire focus. When you have to stop all that you are doing or saying to breathe through that wave of contraction, you know you are in labour. You know you need to call your doula, you should let your midwife know what is going on. Or, you and your partner should talk about how much longer you feel comfortable at home.
Other signs that labour is coming soon: loss of mucous plug (this can be streaking of red or pink when you wipe, or a big bunch of mucousy snot – its true-!), any loss of fluid. If you think your waters have ruptured, call your care provider (then your doula!). Take into consideration the time this occurred, the amount and the colour.
If there is any take away message from this, remember to rest when you can. This can be a long process, and you can enjoy this time. It can be beautiful and hard, but also amazing. Allow yourself to take time in your birthing to let your body do what it knows how to do, to let your mind catch up to your body. Nourish yourself with food, love, support, water, good music and a safe space to be yourself.
Happy birthing, women.